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Nice post. I love the idea of forests growing where American city blocks used to be. (You probably meant to type "dominant," instead of "dominate," in the second sentence.) Keep the good posts coming.
Posted by David from Chicago on December 13, 2012 at 8:00 AM · Report this
So a businessman wants to buy vacant lots that are currently owned by the city, fill them with trees to potentially create a greenbelt more than a mile long, with the intent that at some point in the future that greenbelt could be harvested for lumber.

The people who are allegedly losing out in this deal are the 100 people who either live next to vacant lots or are currently living in abandoned buildings on those vacant lots.

I'm having a hard time seeing why this is a bad thing. If there is a reason, please explain it to me.

I'd be thrilled if a private investor wanted to buy up a surplus of vacant land and turn it into a greenbelt.

About the only way I could see this being a bad deal would be if Hantz wanted to wall off the lots once the trees were planted and keep the citizens out. But, if it's going to be used as a greenbelt in the traditional sense, like a large park that would have trails and paths and other outdoors activities... I really can't see why it's a bad deal.
Posted by Queerly Yours on December 13, 2012 at 8:05 AM · Report this
It's hard to tell without looking at a map, but if this shrinks the city along its edges (all due respect to the sparsely scattered 100 who call it home), that's good solid urbanism. If it takes a chunk out of a lively neighborhood, then no. Either way the price does seem extremely low. And while it should be possible to do the same thing to a tract of half-vacant McMansions, this neighborhood's low socioeconomic standing was probably a big factor in making this happen, and that's not right.
Posted by Prettybetsy on December 13, 2012 at 8:07 AM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 4
I was hoping the story would lead to pea patches so people could grow their own food. But this isn't a bad idea either.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on December 13, 2012 at 8:33 AM · Report this
Charles Mudede 5
@1, changed! thanks. @2, as i said, it's a confusion of things.
Posted by Charles Mudede on December 13, 2012 at 8:42 AM · Report this
You know, if I were living in a neighborhood with that kind of blight and decay, I'd welcome this tree farming with wide open arms.

And even if the price is extremely low, bear in mind that most cities expend a fair bit of their budget on tree planting. Win-win.

I'd be a little disappointed if the trees were planted in the typical orderly rows and columns of commercial reforestation, but even that's preferable to the status quo.

Besides, forestry used to be big in Michigan. So this is basically the return of an old industry.
Posted by Corydon on December 13, 2012 at 9:03 AM · Report this
I don't think I've ever seen "redevelopment" in urban/suburban areas that included removing buildings and parking lots in order to restore open space. It's always "build something new", never "let's build a park or a nature habitat."

The feds have turned Rocky Mountain Arsenal and Rocky Flats nuke weapons facility near Denver into wildlife refuges, but those were mostly open areas anyway. Even there, though, the reason they weren't converted into yet more sprawl was because the land is so frickin' contaminated (RMA with chemicals, RF with radioactive waste). If they hadn't been so dangerous, they'd have been packed chock full of McMansions, WalMarts, and Applebeeses.
Posted by rainbird on December 13, 2012 at 9:48 AM · Report this
@3: The price isn't all that out of line if you understand the Detroit real estate market. You can reliably pick up residential lots with abandoned houses on them at auction for the cost of a good used car. I've heard of them going for as little as $100 on occasion. The city's population has shrunk, and there are quite simply parts of it that no one would live in by choice, at this point. The city is faced with a lot of property that's defaulted to it due to unpaid taxes, but that it lacks the money to clear and can't sell at auction. Neighbors sometimes get so frustrated with drug activity in abandoned houses that they simply set fire to them to get rid of them. It makes good sense for the city to basically give the land away in exchange for a promise to clean it up.

@4: Pea-patches probably aren't a good idea in Detroit. Vast swaths of land there are contaminated with arsenic. Trees make sense because nobody's gonna eat 'em.
Posted by Orv on December 13, 2012 at 10:00 AM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 9
The city of the future is a ring of cottages in a forest, powered by hydrogen and collecting water from the air.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on December 13, 2012 at 10:33 AM · Report this
Charles, you're always arguing in favor of urban density. Removing a bunch of abandoned buildings encourages density instead of having 100 people spread out over an area designed for 1000 people. It reduces city budget with fewer buildings to keep an eye on and fewer roads to maintain. If you're concerned about the 100 squatters that are being displaced worry no more. There are more than enough abandoned buildings in Detroit to supply all the squatters you could dream of.

This sounds like a great deal for the city. Of course I'd rather the guy just build a public park but there's something to be said for creating jobs in sustainable forestry right in the city.
Posted by Root on December 13, 2012 at 11:15 AM · Report this
Here's a collection of links on the official shrink-the-city movement that's happening mostly in the Rust Belt:…
Posted by Prettybetsy on December 13, 2012 at 11:32 AM · Report this
@8 Fair enough. Now, do you know where this particular area stands geographically with respect to the rest of the city? Is it on the fringe, between the center and a denser neighborhood, what?
Posted by Prettybetsy on December 13, 2012 at 11:36 AM · Report this
@12: No, sorry. I haven't followed the news in Detroit very closely since I moved out of Michigan.
Posted by Orv on December 17, 2012 at 3:25 PM · Report this

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